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Liberty runner wins 50K race -- on his first try

May 5, 2010 : Sarah Funderburke

Jake Reed, left, and Jordan Whitlock pose after the Promise Land 50K race on April 24. Reed placed first; Whitlock was second.

After sleeping in his car and waking up at 5 a.m. to run 30-plus miles on a mountainous trail, Liberty University junior Jake Reed found victory on April 24 when he crossed the Promise Land 50K finish line in first place.

But unlike other runners, Reed’s journey to first place in this Bedford County, Va. (just west of Liberty’s campus) race did not start with an extensive training plan months in advance. In fact, Reed, who had never run an ultramarathon (any race exceeding the 26.2 miles of a marathon) before this event, did not even sign up for the race until four days prior, when LU kinesiology professor and race director Dr. David Horton, encouraged him to.

“I walked into [Dr.] Horton’s office a few days before the race trying to find event experience hours for [my major] sport management and I mentioned I would like to try an ultra one day, and that led to him convincing me to try Promise Land this year,” Reed said.

He finished with a time of four hours, 49 minutes.

Although Reed runs as many as 110 miles per week when training with Liberty’s cross country and track & field teams, he did not anticipate how difficult Promise Land would be.

“There’s probably only about three miles of flat ground on the course,” he said.

Reed also initially ignored one habit important to most ultramarathon runners: he didn’t run with a water bottle.

“Around mile 23 it hit me really hard,” he said.

Friend and fellow Liberty student Jordan Whitlock helped Reed through the beginning of the race by sharing his water bottle for the first nine miles. Whitlock finished second overall with a time of four hours, 54 minutes.

“I like ultras because you run places you would never run otherwise,” said Whitlock, who also runs cross country and track & field for Liberty. “You’ll never see those mountains unless you do a really long run.”

Whitlock said he has run about a half-dozen ultramarathons, including the Promise Land three times. His training averages 70-75 miles per week.

“Ultras have a really great atmosphere,” he said. “The race started at 5:30 in the morning … and everyone was excited and happy and ready to go.”

Reed and Whitlock said they plan to continue running ultras in the future. A total of 29 Liberty students finished the Promise Land 50K, including Jamie Darling, who placed fifth among women runners.

A full list of the Promise Land 50K results can be found here.


  • Whitlock recently won the Bald Mountain 10K on May 1, with a time of 40:24. The race is one of four in the Liberty Mountain Trail Race Series, which is sponsored by Liberty’s Student Activities Office. Proceeds from the race were donated to the Wounded Warrior Project, an organization dedicated to honoring and assisting soldiers injured in combat. In support of this project, a contingency of Liberty’s Army ROTC cadets completed the race while wearing their 35-pound rucksacks, the packs soldiers use to carry their food and extra clothes in. Full results for the race are posted here.